Relationship of pain and symptoms to pubertal development in adolescents

Pain. 2005 Nov;118(1-2):201-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2005.08.011. Epub 2005 Oct 5.


Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) pain, abdominal pain, migraine and tension-type headache are more prevalent in women than in men. This study assessed the relationship of back pain, headache, abdominal pain, TMD pain, and the presence of multiple pain conditions to gender and pubertal development in a cross-sectional, population-based survey of adolescents. We also examined the association between pubertal development and depressive and somatic symptoms, factors often associated with pain in adults. We hypothesized that prevalence of all pain conditions, as well as rates of other symptoms, would increase as puberty progresses in females, but not males. Subjects (3,101 boys and girls, 11-17 years old, selected from an HMO population) reported on the presence of each pain condition in the prior 3 months and completed scales assessing pubertal development, and depressive and somatic symptoms. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression. Prevalence rates were weighted for factors affecting response. Prevalence of back pain, headache and TMD pain increased significantly (odds ratios, OR=1.4-2.0, P<0.001) and stomach pain increased marginally with increasing pubertal development in girls. Rates of somatization, depression and probability of experiencing multiple pains also increased with pubertal development in girls (P<0.0001). For boys, prevalence of back (OR=1.9, P<0.0001) and facial pain (OR=1.5, P<0.01) increased, stomach pain decreased somewhat and headache prevalence was virtually unchanged with increasing maturity. For both sexes, pubertal development was a better predictor of pain than was age. Thus it appears that pain, other somatic symptoms and depression increase systematically with pubertal development in girls.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology